The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) held its second annual ‘Lavender’ graduation ceremony Saturday evening in the Student Union Building at Los Angeles City College.
LACCD is the largest community college district in the nation that serves about 230,000 full- and part-time students each year, and has an estimated 10,000 students who self-identify as members of the LGBTQI community. The ‘Lavender’ graduation ceremony was a prelude for approximately 200 graduates embracing celebration of their LGBTQI identities who will also be attending the LACCD’s principal commencement ceremonies Tuesday June 5 at the district’s nine campuses across the LA Metroplex.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was LACCD Board of Trustees’ first openly gay Board member, David Vela.
Vela, the founder of HONOR PAC, (Political Action Committee that supports Latino LGBTQ political candidates), is a long time advocate for free tuition at community colleges, student housing, job training & creation and LGBTQI rights.
“My heart feels really good to see all of you here,” Vela told the graduates and their families. “Congrats to you, the graduates of the class of 2019.”
In his address he noted his background and then told those present that the reason he was attending was because he was just like them, referencing the fact he is an openly gay man.
“We are not the norm- well just not yet,” Vela said. Then he addressed the rise in hate crimes and bigotry since the election of “you know who” as the crowd laughed at his oblique reference to President Trump. Specifically Vela then referenced the deaths of 29 Trans people in 2017 as he continued to refer to Trump as “you know who.” He told the graduates that these were the reasons he is pushing for an LGBTQ “Bill of Rights” to be applied across all nine colleges in the LACCD, a statement met by enthusiastic applause.
Vela recognised Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell 13th District, who was in attendance, for his longtime support of LGBTQI rights. O’Farrell was later introduced noting his status as an openly gay member of LA’s City Council.
Dr. Mary Gallagher, President of LACC spoke of her commitment to diversity and added that “history is made by people who come together to do things that are different. This is the first time in the history of the college that all 9 LACC campuses have come together to have a Lavender graduation.”
The student speaker, Sabrina Smith, spoke to the personal meaning for her as a member of the LGBTQI community to have a ceremony that recognized and celebrates that community. “We the community are finally being seen, heard, acknowledged and celebrated as for far too long we haven’t.” She added that the LGBTQI students make up a significant amount of the total student body, faculty, and staff. She then gave her personal story and experiences as a student and the importance of visibility on college campuses.
O’Farrell congratulated the class of 2019 and then called on a round of applause in recognition of the family members of the graduates for their support. “At the end of the day, it is the allies and our family members who are supportive,” he said adding, “who really keep our spirits up.”
O’Farrell noted that the LGBTQI community “builds our own families. but it is especially blessed when it also happens to be our biological families.”
Many of the students left feeling inspired. A transwoman who identified herself at Sheila but would not give a last name, said her journey had changed because of LACCD’s free-tuition program. “I pulled myself off the streets because of this program. I realized I have potential.” Joseph Patterson, pictured above with Director of Institutional Advancement Michael D. Fuller and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said he was “proud of the opportunity to excel.” And, he, added, “I plan to pursue advanced degrees in Addiction and Counseling and that’s something this college has made possible for me.”
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California bans book bans & textbook censorship in schools
California provides instruction & support to roughly 5.9 million students in more than 1,000 districts & over 10,000 schools
SACRAMENTO — Building on his Family Agenda to promote educational freedom and success, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed AB 1078 by Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), which bans “book bans” in schools, prohibits censorship of instructional materials, and strengthens California law requiring schools to provide all students access to textbooks that teach about California’s diverse communities.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools. With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” the governor said as he signed the bill.
“When we restrict access to books in school that properly reflect our nation’s history and unique voices, we eliminate the mirror in which young people see themselves reflected, and we eradicate the window in which young people can comprehend the unique experiences of others,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “In short, book bans harm all children and youth, diminishing communal empathy and serving to further engender intolerance and division across society. We Californians believe all children must have the freedom to learn about the world around them and this new law is a critical step in protecting this right.”
“It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away,” said Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson. “Today, California has met this historical imperative and we will be ready to meet the next one.”
California is banning book bans and textbook censorship in our schools.— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) September 26, 2023
In partnership with @AsmCoreyJackson and @TonyThurmond, we’re cementing CA's role as the true freedom state: a place where families—not political fanatics—have the freedom to decide what’s right. pic.twitter.com/0br2MQN2rm
“AB 1078 sends a strong signal to the people of California — but also to every American — that in the Golden State — we don’t ban books — we cherish them,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “This law will serve as a model for the nation that California recognizes and understands the moment we are in – and while some want to roll back the clock on progress, we are doubling down on forward motion. Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education, because that’s the California way.”
AB 1078 provides the Superintendent of Public Instruction the authority to buy textbooks for students in a school district, recoup costs, and assess a financial penalty if a school board willfully chooses to not provide sufficient standards-aligned instructional materials for students. The law also prohibits school boards from banning instructional materials or library books on the basis that they provide inclusive and diverse perspectives in compliance with state law.
While other states ban books, California is making tens of billions of dollars in strategic investments to improve education outcomes and literacy. California outperformed most states — including Florida and Texas — in mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, and through historic levels of school funding, the state is building a cohesive structure of support for educators and students that reflects a focus on equity, inclusion, and academic success.
As part of the Governor’s Family Agenda, California is ensuring parents and caregivers have the opportunity to actively participate in their children’s education. Parents in California have a seat at the decision-making table for key budget, programmatic, and curricular decisions, including the creation of Local Control and Accountability Plans. In the past two years, in partnership with the Legislature, Governor Newsom has required schools to make it easier for working parents to participate in school decisions, invested $4.1 billion to convert one in four schools into community schools with deeper parent engagement, and invested another $100 million in the Community Engagement Initiative for more proactive collaboration with parents.
California provides instruction and support services to roughly 5.9 million students in grades transitional kindergarten through twelve in more than 1,000 districts and over 10,000 schools throughout the state. Education funding in the state is at a record high, totaling $129.2 billion in the 2023-24 budget.
HRC ad slams ‘extremist’ GOP’s looming government shutdown
The GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes & have led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign on Monday slamming House Republicans for advancing anti-LGBTQ and other “out of touch demands” rather than working to clear must-pass spending bills before the month’s end to avoid a government shutdown.
In the weeks since Congress returned from the summer recess, opportunities to forestall this outcome narrowed with each passing day as small groups of the GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes, led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and added anti-LGBTQ and other far-right amendments to all 12 appropriations bills, effectively dooming the prospects of their passage by the Senate.
HRC’s announcement of plans to run the six-figure blitz “across major national outlets, cable networks and digital streaming services” included a 30-second ad titled “Grind to a Halt,” which accuses House Republicans of “trying to limit the health care you and your family can access, ban books and flags, and block enforcement of civil rights laws.”
In a statement, HRC President Kelley Robinson said the conservative lawmakers had “hijacked the appropriations process to attack LGBTQ+ communities rather than doing their jobs,” noting that a shutdown would “interrupt critical government services, hurt working families and endanger our national security.”
Books banned in public schools spike upwards 33% in last year
PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida, followed by 625 in Texas, 333 in Missouri, 281 in Utah, & 186 book bans in Penn.
NEW YORK — The number of public school book bans across the country increased by 33 percent in the 2022-23 school year compared to the 2021-22 school year, according to a new PEN America report.
“Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor” highlights the disproportionate number of bans occurring in Florida — where over 40 percent of all book bans took place in the 2022-23 school year — and shows how state legislation and coordinated pressure campaigns from local groups and individuals have driven mass restrictions on access to literature.
Since PEN America started tracking public school book bans in July 2021, the organization has recorded nearly 6,000 instances of banned books. This includes 3,362 book bans affecting 1,557 unique titles during the 2022-23 school year, impacting the work of 1,480 authors, illustrators, and translators.
There are multiple drivers of these trends. Over the past school year, vaguely-worded state legislation and local and national advocacy groups have converged, pressuring districts to remove more books from student access. Fear of penalties, legal liabilities, and criminal punishments are escalating book bans to new heights.
“The toll of the book banning movement is getting worse. More kids are losing access to books, more libraries are taking authors off the shelves, and opponents of free expression are pushing harder than ever to exert their power over students as a whole,” said Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America. “Those who are bent on the suppression of stories and ideas are turning our schools into battlegrounds, compounding post-pandemic learning loss, driving teachers out of the classroom and denying the joy of reading to our kids. By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.”
This year Florida surpassed Texas as having the most books pulled from shelves. Laws and tactics that emerged in the Sunshine State are also being replicated elsewhere. The language of the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law that originated in Florida has been mimicked in Iowa, where vagueness and lack of state guidance similarly led school districts to ban books. Book Looks, a website created by a Moms for Liberty member from Florida to encourage book censorship, has been used widely to ban books, from Pennsylvania to Virginia.
The range of efforts to restrict teaching or intimidate educators also continues to expand. The escalation of book bans — combined with the proliferation of legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics like race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities, as well as the rise in ‘educational intimidation’ mandates that require intrusive monitoring of teachers and librarians — pose a grave threat to the freedom to read and learn in schools across the country.
PEN America argues these efforts are part of an ongoing nationwide “Ed Scare” — a campaign to foment anxiety and anger with the ultimate goal of suppressing free expression in public education.
Other major findings include:
- PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida, followed by 625 bans in Texas, 333 bans in Missouri, 281 bans in Utah, and 186 book bans in Pennsylvania. These cases are instances where books were banned from classrooms or libraries, or both, or were banned pending investigation, as per PEN America’s definitions.
- Over 75 percent of the books banned are young adult books, middle grade books, chapter books, or picture books — in other words, books specifically written and selected for younger audiences.
- Of the 3,362 books banned this year, 1,263 were banned from classrooms and school libraries, compared to only 333 books in this category last year. This represents an increase of nearly 400 percent compared to last school year.
- Nearly half of all book bans (48 percent) during the 2022-23 school year deal with violence or physical abuse, including books that include sexual assault; 30 percent include characters of color and themes of race and racism; 30 percent represent LGBTQ+ identities; and six percent include a transgender character.
- In the 153 school districts across the country that banned a book during the 2022-23 school year, 124(81 percent) have a chapter or local affiliate nearby of one or more of the three most prominent national groups pushing for book bans — Moms for Liberty, Citizens Defending Freedom, and Parents’ Rights in Education. These districts are where 87percent (2,912) of book bans have occurred.
According to Kasey Meehan, PEN America’s Freedom to Read program director and lead author of the report, “Hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric continues to ignite fear over the types of books in schools. And yet, 75 percent of all banned books are specifically written and selected for young audiences. Florida isn’t an anomaly – it’s providing a playbook for other states to follow suit. Students have been using their voices for months in resisting coordinated efforts to suppress teaching and learning about certain stories, identities, and histories; it’s time we follow their lead.”
One positive trend highlighted in the report is the continued growth in student pushback against book bans across the country. Youth resistance to book bans in numerous school districts has included protests, speaking out at school board meetings, and the establishment of national organizations dedicated to defending access to literature in schools.
This report expands on PEN America’s work documenting the spread of educational censorship in America’s schools, showing the rapid evolution and intensification of book-banning across the country since the April 2023 Banned in the USA report, which documented 1,477 instances of book bans in the first half of the 2022-23 school year.
Author John Green, whose book, Looking for Alaska, was the third most banned in U.S. schools according to the report, said “While I’m encouraged by PEN America’s work to protect free expression and intellectual freedom, it’s disappointing to see such a steep rise in the banning and restriction of books. We should trust our teachers and librarians to do their jobs. If you have a worldview that can be undone by a book, I would submit that the problem is not with the book.”
PEN America defines a school book ban as any action taken against a book based on its content and as a result of parent or community challenges, administrative decisions, or in response to direct or threatened action by lawmakers or other governmental officials, that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.
The preceding article was provided to the Los Angeles Blade by PEN America.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.
Join PEN America in defending the freedom to read by taking action to #FreeTheBooks and making your voice heard.
Libs Of TikTok post instigates another round of bomb threats
An all too familiar occurrence an elementary school evacuated for bomb threats after being targeted by Libs of TikTok for a pride flag
By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – A Highland Park, Illinois, elementary school evacuated its premises and relocated its young students for two consecutive days following bomb threats. This alarming incident came on the heels of the controversial anti-LGBTQ+ account, Libs of TikTok, overseen by Chaya Raichik, showcasing an image of a classroom in the school adorned with a pride flag.
Notably, extremism researchers have previously associated the Libs of TikTok account with real-world violent threats potentially incited by posts to the account. As more schools and businesses face hostility simply for displaying a Pride flag, LGBTQ+ advocates and allies are left questioning why online social media platforms continue to tolerate such virulent hate content.
The Libs of TikTok account is run by Chaya Raichik, who maintained anonymity until December of 2022. In an interview with Tucker Carlson, which she deemed a “face reveal,” she revealed that Governor DeSantis offered her to stay in the Governor’s Mansion guesthouse in order to “provide her safety.” Her account has regularly posted the names of hospitals, schools, and businesses that have LGBTQ+ inclusive initiatives, pride flags, or show support for LGBTQ+ students in any other number of ways.
Such a post was made on September 15 by the account of the interior of a classroom at a Highland Park elementary school which featured a pride flag and general rainbow theme. Her post asked, “Why would an elementary school have a massive progress pride flag hanging above students heads all day?” to which her respondents replied by calling the teacher a groomer and pedophile.
Here is a picture of the post, seen by 584,000 people on Twitter:
Within days, the school began to receive bomb threats, closing it down. Elementary students were evacuated to a nearby location. A message posted to the Highland Park, Illinois Facebook page noted that multiple schools delayed the start of their school days and that further updates would be provided to students. Notably, Highland Park is also the location of a recent mass shooting in 2022.
Five days after Libs of TikTok targeted an Illinois elementary school, students are being pulled out of class so police can investigate a bomb threat pic.twitter.com/zmZEtEFrDX— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) September 21, 2023
Raichik has a long history of targeting a location and that location then being the recipient of violent threats. Shortly after her tweets against Boston Children’s Hospital, the hospital began receiving a series of bomb threats, partially shutting it down at times.
In Kiel, Wisconsin, after the account posted tweets targeting a school district there, multiple replies called for violence against the district. The district was then paralyzed for over a month by bomb threats. Similar examples could be seen in Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and more.
All in all, the account has been linked to potentially inciting 66 separate threat events, most of which occurred within 5 days of her tweets as of December of 2022.
Anti-LGBTQ+ violent threats have become increasingly frequent in recent months. In California, a shop owner was killed for flying a Pride flag – the account followed and interacted with several anti-LGBTQ+ influencer accounts online.
In Texas, a church that hosted a drag event was firebombed after an anti-LGBTQ+ youtuber visited. In a report released in June, GLAAD had identified 350 anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism events across the United States.
Many organizations have called for social media platforms to do better at curtailing hate content. GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Index this year, for instance, reported that all give major platforms were failing at restricting anti-LGBTQ+ hate content, with Twitter scoring the worst. The platform notably dropped protections for transgender people from its harassment policy earlier this year.
Without significant reforms, accounts such as Libs of TikTok are poised to persist in disseminating hate content, ultimately translating to tangible harassment and violence. In just the past week, this account has set its sights on several more schools and libraries for their support of transgender youth, pride displays, and other LGBTQ+-positive measures.
Ironically, these institutions will likely find themselves ramping up security measures to safeguard their students from accounts that purport to act “to protect kids” from LGBTQ+ people.
Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.
Follow her on Twitter (Link)
Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/
Barbara Lee: PEPFAR is ‘more in peril’ than ever
Congress has yet to reauthorize funding for Bush-era HIV/AIDS program
WASHINGTON — California Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Sept. 22 said the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is “more in peril” now than at any point since its launch two decades ago.
“This program is reauthorized every five years, but it’s always on a bipartisan basis,” said Lee during a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. “As we approach the benchmark of an AIDS-free generation by 2023, it is unfortunately more in peril now than ever before.”
Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR.
Lee noted PEPFAR as of 2020 has provided nearly $100 billion in “cumulative funding for HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and research.” She said PEPFAR is the largest global funding program for a single disease outside of COVID-19.
New PEPFAR strategy includes ‘targeted programming’ for marginalized groups
The panel took place amid the continued push for Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years. The federal government will shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress does not pass an appropriations bill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last December at a World AIDS Day event in D.C. acknowledged HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other marginalized groups. A new PEPFAR strategy the Biden-Harris administration announced that seeks to “fill those gaps” over the next five years includes the following points:
• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ+ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups
• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.
• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”
The Family Research Council Action in an email to supporters urged them to tell Congress to “stop Biden from hijacking PEPFAR to promote its radical social policies overseas.” Family Watch International has said PEPFAR “has been hijacked to advance a radical sexual agenda.”
“Please sign the petition to tell the U.S. Congress to ensure that no U.S. funds go to organizations that promote abortion, LGBT ideology, or ‘comprehensive sexuality education,'” said the group in an email to its supporters.
A group of lawmakers and religious leaders from Kenya and other African countries in a letter they wrote to members of Congress in June said PEPFAR, in their view, no longer serves its original purposes of fighting HIV/AIDS because it champions homosexuality and abortion.
“We wrote that letter to the U.S. Congress not to stop PEPFAR funding to Kenya, but to demand the initiative to revert to its original mission without conditioning it to also supporting LGBTQ as human rights,” it reads.
Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.
American officials earlier this year postponed a meeting on PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the potential impact the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act will have on it. The law, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Biden in his U.N. General Assembly speech last week noted LGBTQ+ and intersex rights and highlighted PEPFAR. Family Watch International in its email to supporters included a link to the letter from the African lawmakers and religious leaders.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated both the FRC and Family Watch International as anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups.
“[PEPFAR is] not about abortions,” said Lee.
U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power during the panel referenced Bush’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post that urged lawmakers to reauthorize PEPFAR.
“The way he put it is no program is more pro-life [than] one that has saved more than 25 million lives,” said Power.
Power referenced the “manufactured controversy that is making it difficult to get this reauthorization.” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. John Knengasong said a failure to reauthorize PEPFAR would weaken “our own foreign policy and diplomacy.”
“Once again the United States will be missing in action,” stressed Lee.
Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin and Kenny Kamson, a Nigerian HIV/AIDS activist, also spoke on the panel that MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart moderated.
Newsom signs LGBTQ+ protections but vetoes trans youth bill
“These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, & create more supportive environments in our schools and communities”
SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom signed several pieces of legislation on Saturday extending protection to the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community with the exception of a bill he vetoed Friday that would have required courts to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions.
“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities. I thank Senator Eggman and the LGBTQ Caucus for their dedicated leadership and partnership in advancing our state’s values of equality, freedom and acceptance.”
Among the nine bills signed into law were:
AB 5- The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, sponsored by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles). This bill sets implementation timelines for required LGBTQ+ cultural competency training by public school teachers and staff.
AB 223- Change of gender and sex identifier, sponsored by Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego).
Existing law authorizes a person to file a petition with the superior court seeking a judgment recognizing their change of gender to female, male, or nonbinary, including a person who is under 18 years of age. Existing law authorizes a person to file a single petition to simultaneously change the petitioner’s name and recognize the change to the petitioner’s gender and sex identifier, as specified.
This bill would require any petition for a change of gender and sex identifier or a petition for change of gender, sex identifier, and name filed by a person under 18 years of age, and any papers associated with the proceeding, to be kept confidential by the court. The bill would require the court to limit access to these records to specified individuals, including, among others, the minor, the minor’s parents, and their attorneys.
AB 760– Public postsecondary education: affirmed name and gender identification, sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Fairfield).
Commencing with the 2023–24 graduating class, existing law prohibits an institution from requiring a graduating student to provide legal documentation sufficient to demonstrate a legal name or gender change in order to have the student’s chosen name listed on the student’s diploma.
This bill, commencing with the 2023–24 graduating class, instead would prohibit an institution from requiring a graduating student to provide legal documentation sufficient to demonstrate a legal name or gender change in order to have the student’s chosen name be the sole name listed on the student’s diploma. The bill would authorize an institution to use a student’s gender or legal name as indicated in a government-issued identification document only if it is necessary to meet a legally mandated obligation, but would otherwise require the institution to identify the student in accordance with the student’s gender identity and affirmed name, as provided. To the extent that this requirement would impose a new duty on community colleges, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
AB 783– Business licenses: single-user restrooms, sponsored by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco). Requires cities, counties, and cities and counties to notify applicants for a business license or permit in writing of the requirement that single-user toilet facilities must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.
AB 994– Law enforcement: social media, sponsored by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley). With respect to an individual who has been arrested for any crime, this bill would require a police department or sheriff’s office, upon posting a booking photo on social media, to use the name and pronouns given by the individual arrested. The bill would authorize a police department or sheriff’s office to use other legal names or known aliases of an individual in limited specified circumstances.
This bill would also require that a police department or sheriff’s office remove any booking photo shared on social media after 14 days unless specified circumstances exist. Because the bill would impose higher duties on local law enforcement, it would impose a state-mandated local program.
SB 372 – Department of Consumer Affairs: licensee and registrant records: name and gender changes, sponsored by Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley/Burbank). The bill would prohibit a board from publishing information relating to the licensee’s or registrant’s former name or gender online. Instead, the bill would require the board to post an online statement directing the public to contact the board for more information. For specified licensees or registrants, the board would be prohibited from posting enforcement records online, but would be required to direct post an online statement stating that the individual was previously subject to an enforcement action and directing the public to contact the board, as prescribed. The bill would provide that all records related to a request to update an individual’s license or registration under these provisions are confidential and not subject to public inspection or disclosure.
SB 407 – Foster care: resource families, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). Existing law generally provides for the placement of foster youth in various placement settings. Existing law provides for the implementation of the resource family approval process and defines a resource family as an individual or family who has successfully met both the home environment assessment standards and permanency assessment criteria, as specified, necessary for providing care for a child placed by a public or private child placement agency by court order, or voluntarily placed by a parent or legal guardian. Under existing law, the resource family permanency standards include a family evaluation, including, but not limited to, interviews of an applicant, as specified, and a risk assessment.
This bill would require a resource family to demonstrate the capacity an ability and willingness to meet the needs of a child, regardless of the child’s sexual orientation or orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, as specified.
SB 760 – School facilities: all-gender restrooms, sponsored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). The bill would require the all-gender restroom to meet certain requirements, including, among other things, that it has signage identifying the bathroom facility as being open to all genders and is unlocked, unobstructed, and easily accessible by any pupil.
SB 857 – Advisory task force: LGBTQ+ pupil needs, sponsored by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). This bill will establish an advisory task force to identify LGBTQ+ pupil needs statewide and assist in implementing supportive initiatives.
We are thrilled that 6 of our priority bills and 2 of our endorsed bills were signed into law today! These bills protect and uplift LGBTQ+ foster youth and students in schools, as well as respect individuals’ names.— California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus (@calgbt) September 24, 2023
We are hopeful our remaining 4 bills will be signed too! pic.twitter.com/Ch6VdQmTAo
“This year the LGBTQ Caucus took up the important work of protecting our communities in the face of vile anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, discriminatory laws across the country, and hatred. I appreciate the Governor’s partnership in signing some of our priority and endorsed legislation today, and hope we can continue to educate about the harm LGBTQ+ people will continue to face if we fail to act,” said Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.
“While states across the nation are passing legislation that puts LGBTQ+ people and especially youth at risk, California is sending a clear message today — hate-filled attacks will not be tolerated and we will continue protecting and ensuring the safety of all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “We are thankful to our legislative partners for championing these important bills and to Governor Newsom for continuing to be such a strong ally in improving and protecting the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community as we face growing attacks from far-right extremists.”
On Friday, Newsom vetoed AB 957 would have updated California law to clarify that, for the purposes of child custody and visitation decisions, a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or gender expression is an essential factor that must be considered in determining the best interest of the child by a judge.
That legislation had been sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Democrat who introduced the bill and has an adult son who came out as transgender when he was a teenager, criticized the governor’s decision.
“I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community. My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child,” Wilson said in a statement.
My Statement on Governor Newsom's Veto of AB 957 pic.twitter.com/bK1JhrW27z— Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (@AsmLoriDWilson) September 23, 2023
“We are disappointed and disheartened by Governor Newsom’s decision to veto AB 957, which would have helped to ensure that the unique needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth are explicitly considered in child custody and visitation decisions,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang.
“At a time where LGBTQ+ youth, specifically trans youth are facing higher rates of depression and suicide, reassurance and protection from our state is in dire need. Anti-LGBTQ+ extremists targeted this modest and straightforward legislation as part of their coordinated attacks on trans youth in California, and the failure to enact this bill bolsters their dangerous efforts. We are grateful to Assemblymember Lori Wilson for her unwavering commitment to the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming young people. Despite this setback, we will continue working with the Legislature and Governor Newsom to to protect the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
In his veto message, the governor explained:
“I appreciate the passion and values that led the author to introduce this bill. I share a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office.
That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate – in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic – legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply. Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”
Protesting anti-LGBTQ+ actions by school board, students walk-out
Students are angry over actions recently taken by the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education
TEMECULA, Calif. – One hundred plus students from Great Oak High School in Temecula walked out of class last week protesting what one student said was an oppressive toxic anti-LGBTQ+ environment.
On Wednesday, school officials warned students who participated that they would be disciplined. [See letter below]
“On Wednesday, the school sent out an email saying anyone who participated would be punished,” Moxxie Childs, a student who helped organize the protest told KABC 7.
The walk-out received the attention of California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis who tweeted:
Proud of these California students who refuse to standby while their peers are the subjects of hateful attacks. In California we will always stand for equality and acceptance. https://t.co/C9H4scN4rZ— Eleni Kounalakis (@EleniForCA) September 22, 2023
Students are angry over actions recently taken by the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education. At the beginning of this month the board passed a controversial new policy that bans all flags except for the U.S. National Standard and the California State flags on any TVUSD properties including in classrooms.
On August 22, 2023, the Board voted to implement a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy. The enacted policy requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission. The policy also requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.
A similar mandatory gender identity disclosure policy in neighboring Chino enacted by the Chino Valley Unified School District is now being challenged in San Bernadino Superior Court by California Attorney General Rob Bonta
In July the board voted to reject inclusion of a book and curriculum that included mention of slain former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and LGBTQ+ topics as required by state law. The board voted 3-2 to dismiss the state’s mandated textbooks and continue on with instructional materials that are nearly two decades old.
Board member Jen Wiersma, supported by the other two conservatives, Danny Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph Komrosky, signaled that they were also opposed to any curriculum that included lessons or information about former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk.
School Board Dr. Joseph Komrosky referred to Milk as a pedophile, drawing the ire of California Gov. Gavin Newsom who tweeted: “An offensive statement from an ignorant person. This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”
After Newsom indicated the state would step in and also fine the district the board rescinded its earlier vote and moved forward to purchase the text books and accompanying instructional materials.
Southern California student protests school flag ban policy; hands out hundreds of Pride flags:
Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia
LGBTQ+ stories from around the globe including Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Wales, Scotland focusing on events that matter
MELBOURNE – A group has petitioned the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption to hold ‘Lesbians Born Female only’ events that exclude transgender people at the Victorian Pride Centre for the next five years.
Lesbian Action Group Melbourne, wrote in their petition to apply for the exemption that the group, exclude “Heterosexual, Bisexual and Gay males, Heterosexual and Bisexual females, Transgender people and Queer plus people.”
The Sydney Star-Observer, Australia’s largest LGBTQ+ media outlet, reported that the event would be held to celebrate International Lesbian Day at the Victorian Pride Centre on October 15, 2023.
Under Australian codes the AHRC is empowered under Section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 (Cth) to grant temporary exemptions for up to five years from the provisions of the anti-discrimination law.
According to the Star-Observer, the group said it was set up to promote and organize events for “lesbian born females “without the fear of being hauled before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, as we have in the past and told our exclusive lesbian born female events are illegal and having to cancel them”.
The group claimed that over the past two decades, they were able to “organize and hold private lesbian meetings and gatherings over these past 20 years to avoid any more challenges by the Transgender community”. The application then went on to allege that “lesbians who publicly speak out about Lesbian rights are also sacked from their jobs, ridiculed and threatened with all kinds of abuse.”
PERTH – Australian NBL professional basketball star Corey Webster was suspended for two games after he posted homophobic remarks to his X/Twitter social media account. In the now deleted tweets, Webster replying to a post that asked: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this flag”, accompanied by the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Pride flag,” said: “Mental illness.”
After Perth Wildcats fans and followers started calling out him for the blatant homophobia Webster posted a follow-up that read in all caps: “PROTECT THE CHILDREN,” and put his social media profile on private.
The team reacted issuing an apology and also released an apology from Webster. In his statement the player said:
“While it certainly wasn’t my intent, I understand the hurt my comments have caused and I am sincerely sorry for this. It wasn’t how I intended my comments to be perceived and I will take a break from social media and use that time to better educate myself on the impact comments such as this can make on individuals I may have offended.”
Perth Wildcats team owner Richard Simkiss said: “We are really disappointed in these comments and have made this clear to Corey. They don’t reflect our values, and we have committed to working with Corey to help educate him about the harm such comments can bring. As a community driven club, we stand for inclusiveness and have strongly supported the NBL’s Pride Round. We look forward to promoting this initiative again in the upcoming season. Our values are clear – we want to bring people together in a positive way and we understand our responsibility as leaders in the community to live these values both on and off the court.”
HO CHI MINH CITY – A decidedly queer subculture import from the United States that gained rapid popularity in this vibrant southern Vietnamese metropolis is providing a safe haven for gay and trans youth.
Al-Jazeera contributor Xuan-Tung Le reported during a recent event, a catwalk for would-be models with fiery dance-off battles, as well as an emotional celebration of kinship between Vietnam’s queer people– all rolled into a single evening of deep connections for trans people especially.
Le notes that not to be confused with ballroom dancing, which evolved from the heterosexual courtship tradition of European aristocrats, ballroom culture emerged in the 1960s among marginalized Black and Latino queer people in the United States.
Gathering at a “ball” function, queer people “walk” to show off their talents in dancing, lip-syncing, performing and catwalk modelling as a way to both compete on the night and, more broadly, transcend the everyday realities of gender identities, occupational roles and social status assigned in society.
Viral videos of voguing battles have also been helped by the digital power of YouTube and TikTok algorithms, giving people around the world access to the dance form Le added.
“Ballroom is more than dancing,” Minerva Sun Mizrahi using a stage name preferring that their real name not be used told Al Jazeera.
“Here, people can vogue, do runway walk, or simply look and act straight-passing – all are considered talents,” Minerva said.
“It is a space to empower queer people.”
Another queer performer told Al Jazeera that social acceptance of trans people also lags behind in Vietnam, even in Saigon where gay men and women enjoy relative acceptance in society. Naomi Sun, also using a preferred stage name, told Al Jazeera: “That is why ballroom events are so unique, as they are one of the few safe spaces in Saigon where trans women can just “let loose and have fun,” Sun said.
“You don’t have to do anything to your body or take hormones; just dress up as a fem queen [which is the ballroom slang for a trans woman], go there, and live your dream as a fem queen,” she said. “It’s fine! That’s how ballroom is.”
Related: Vietnam’s ‘ballroom’ culture: A safe space to celebrate trans people (Link)
NEW YORK – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says Malaysia will never recognize LGBTQ rights. Recently prison sentences were threatened for selling rainbow watches. “I wouldn’t defend that,” Ibrahim tells the veteran journalist. He says he’d like to see things change, but must respect the consensus of the people.
Anwar said that as prime minister, he has to respect the consensus of Malaysians and that they do not accept public displays of LGBTQ+. “The Muslims, non -Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Buddhists, they have a consensus in the country. They do not accept this (LGBTQ+).,” he said. However, he said while there is a need to exercise some degree of tolerance, harassment has to be avoided.
Anwar on Malaysia’s stand on LGBTQ+ issue:
LONDON – A 17-year-old teen male from South Wales has been publicly named after being convicted and sentenced on Thursday, September 21, for a homophobic and racist vandalism crime spree in South Wales and Cardiff.
Haynes and a second 15-year-old male accomplice carried out several racially and homophobically charged counts of criminal damage across South Wales, including extremist Nazi graffiti on a Windrush mural in Port Talbot where the teen was living at the time.
British LGBTQ+ media outlet PinkNewsUK reported that just hours after the mural, depicting local beloved nurse Donna Campbell and her mother Lydie, was complete, it was daubed with swastikas, the words “Nazi zone”, and a racial slur.
The presiding justice, Jeremy Baker, sent the teen to jail for one year and seven months and ordered the former Royal Air Force Cadet to an additional one year’s probation.
According to SKY News, Counter terrorism police in Wales last year began investigating the two teenagers in connection with “several offenses of racially and homophobically aggravated criminal damage”.
A smoke bomb was also rolled into The Queer Emporium, an LGBTQ+ business in Cardiff city center.
The 15-year-old, from Tonyrefail, South Wales, appeared at Cardiff Youth Court and pleaded guilty on August 15 to one charge of criminal damage and four charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. He was given community service for one year, and probation for two additional years and ordered to pay £100 ($122.42 USD) compensation to The Queer Emporium.
In the case of Hayes, Justice Baker said the teen had “essentially became self-radicalized” and held “entrenched” racist, antisemitic and homophobic views.
“I am satisfied that not only did you hold entrenched racist, antisemitic and homophobic views at the time of the commission of these offenses, but that these are views which you have not genuinely disavowed,” the judge told him at his sentencing. “It is apparent that you were not someone who limited your behavior to the expression of your views online, but were prepared to put some of those views into action,” he added.
The Judge also noted, “It is of particular concern that not only had you asserted that one of your goals in life was to kill someone….but you had already carried out research as to the availability of one of the components for constructing a gun.”
According to Counter Terrorism Policing Wales Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Williams who spoke at the sentencing:
“For the older boy in particular, it became evident that he was also involved in the online distribution of extreme right-wing material, which clearly fell into the space governed by terrorism legislation,” he said.
“The offences were particularly abhorrent in nature and understandably caused upset to many people, both within the communities the boys targeted, and beyond.
“The sentencing today concludes the investigation and enables professionals to work intensively with them in the hope that they can lead far more productive lives in their respective futures.”
EDINBURGH – The court battle over to overturn the UK Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack’s, veto block of the Gender Recognition Reform ended this week with a ruling by Judge Lady Shona Haldane of the Court of Session in Edinburgh not expected for “some time” according to a statement from the court.
Haldane said after the judicial review concluded a day earlier than expected – that she will take “some time” to reach her decision on the matter. She added she write her opinion following what she described as a “unique, very interesting and challenging case.”
The Gender Recognition Reform bill introduced by the Scottish government to Holyrood (parliament) last Spring was passed in a final 86-39 vote days before this past Christmas 2022. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing transgender Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.
The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.
Alister Jack had released a statement indicating that with the backing of Number 10 Downing Street, he would use a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the King’s signature which is referred to as Royal assent.
Under Section 35 of the Scotland Act, UK ministers can stop a bill getting royal assent. Jack can do so if he is of the opinion that a Holyrood bill would modify laws reserved to Westminster and have an “adverse effect” on how those laws apply.
PinkNewsUK reported the legislation itself was not discussed, with the case instead focusing on whether or not the Jack had the legal right to veto the bill.
Whoever loses the case, when Haldane issues her ruling, will have the right to appeal the outcome at The Court of Session Inner House. Whoever loses that appeal will have the option to take the case to the Supreme Court in London.
This means, regardless of the result, the political and legal battle could go on for months, or even years.
Additional reporting from the Star Observer, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky News, & PinkNewsUK
Writer’s Guild of America & studios have reached a tentative deal
“We are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week”
HOLLYWOOD – The end may be in sight for the strike by The Writers Guild of America that has lasted more than 140 days and put thousands of people out of work. On Sunday, the WGA Negotiating Committee said that the union and the major Hollywood studios have reached a tentative deal for a new contract, although the deal must still be ratified by the union’s 11,500 members.
In a statement released by the WGA Sunday evening the WGA Negotiating Committee leadership wrote:
“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language.
What we have won in this contract—most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd—is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal. […]
What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last “i” is dotted. To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again—one last time.
Once the Memorandum of Agreement with the AMPTP is complete, the Negotiating Committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement and send it on to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council for approval. The Board and Council will then vote on whether to authorize a contract ratification vote by the membership.
If that authorization is approved, the Board and Council would also vote on whether to lift the restraining order and end the strike at a certain date and time (to be determined) pending ratification. This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval.
Immediately after those leadership votes, which are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday if the language is settled, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the deal points and the Memorandum of Agreement. We will also convene meetings where members will have the opportunity to learn more about and assess the deal before voting on ratification.
To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.”
We did it. We have a tentative deal.— Adam Conover (@adamconover) September 25, 2023
Over the coming days, we'll discuss and vote on it, together, as a democratic union. But today, I want to thank every single WGA member, and every fellow worker who stood with us in solidarity. You made this possible. Thank you. #WGAStrong pic.twitter.com/KfzVKoPMPz
Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement in response to the tentative agreement reached by the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers:
“California’s entertainment industry would not be what it is today without our world class writers. For over 100 days, 11,000 writers went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling. I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved, and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work.”
EdTech threats to LGBTQ student privacy & equity in the age of AI
Schools are filtering & blocking LGBTQ+ & race-related content, with licensed special education teachers more likely to report such practices
By Elizabeth Laird, Maddy Dwyer & Hugh Grant-Chapman | WASHINGTON – In schools across the country, the use of educational data and technology (edtech) remains nearly ubiquitous. In addition to supporting instruction, schools have used edtech to respond to the painfully present safety threats that they face on a daily basis — from gun violence to the youth mental health crisis.
However, long-standing technologies such as content filtering and blocking and student activity monitoring pose well-documented privacy and equity risks to students. Nonetheless, schools continue to deploy these technologies on a mass scale. And with generative artificial intelligence (AI) becoming rapidly integrated into the education space, many new risks are being introduced to students.
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) conducted surveys of high school students and middle and high school parents and teachers from July to August 2023 to understand how edtech used by schools is tangibly affecting those it claims to serve. The research focuses on student privacy concerns and schools’ capacity to address them; emerging uses of AI-driven technology such as predictive analytics; and deep dives into content filtering and blocking, student activity monitoring, and generative AI, encompassing both well-established and emerging technology. These surveys build on CDT’s previous research, which revealed that student activity monitoring is adversely affecting all students, especially historically marginalized and under-resourced students.
Whether old or new, technologies deployed across schools have negative impacts on students, and schools are out of step in addressing rising concerns:
- Schools are not adequately engaging and supporting students, parents, and teachers in addressing concerns about school data and technology practices: Students, parents, and teachers report a lack of guidance, information, and training on privacy, student activity monitoring, content filtering and blocking, and generative AI. They want more support from their schools and to be involved in decisions about whether and how these technologies are used.
- Content blocking and filtering is stifling student learning and growth: Students and teachers agree that this technology is a barrier to learning, often making it hard to complete school assignments and access useful information.
- Student activity monitoring continues to harm many of the students it claims to help: Disciplinary actions, outing of students, and initiating of law enforcement contact are still regular outcomes of the use of this technology, even though it is procured by schools to help keep students safe.
- Schools have provided little guidance about generative AI, leaving students, parents, and teachers in the dark: Students, parents, and teachers report a collective state of confusion about policies and procedures related to responsible generative AI use in the classroom. Meanwhile, students are getting in trouble for the use of this technology.
Even more disheartening is that in all of these areas, at-risk communities of students are still experiencing disproportionate negative impacts of these old and new technologies:
- Schools are filtering and blocking LGBTQ+ and race-related content, with Title I and licensed special education teachers more likely to report such practices: Although filtering and blocking technology was originally intended to primarily target explicit adult content, more school administrators are using it to restrict access to other content they think is inappropriate, including LGBTQ+ and race-related content. Title I and licensed special education teachers are more likely to report this occurrence. In key respects, this finding parallels the broader trend in education of removing books and curricular content on these subjects.
- Student activity monitoring is disproportionately harming students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students: Students with individualized education programs (IEPs) and/or 504 plans as well as licensed special education teachers report higher rates of discipline arising from student activity monitoring. LGBTQ+ students are also still being disciplined more than their peers and outed without their consent.
- Title I and licensed special education teachers report higher rates of students receiving disciplinary actions for using or being accused of using generative AI: Despite having little guidance from schools on generative AI use, Title I teachers, licensed special education teachers, and parents of students with IEPs and/or 504 plans report higher rates of their student(s) getting in trouble as compared to peers.
Previous CDT research and this year’s findings continue to document the risks and harms of edtech on all students but especially on vulnerable communities. As uses of edtech, particularly AI-driven technology, continue to expand, education leaders across the country should focus not only on privacy concerns but also on identifying and preventing discrimination. Luckily, they already have the tools to do so with well-established civil rights laws that apply to discriminatory uses of technology.
The preceding article was previously published by The Center for Democracy & Technology and is republished with permission.
CDT is the leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization fighting to advance civil rights and civil liberties in the digital age.
CDT shapes technology policy, governance, and design with a focus on equity and democratic values. Established in 1994, CDT has been a trusted advocate for digital rights since the earliest days of the internet.
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